MIDDLETOWN, Conn. –
September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and Connecticut’s Home Team has enlisted a new group of warriors to lead the charge against suicide. The group, 19 service members and civilian staff of the Connecticut National Guard, participated in an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST, class held at the Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose Armed Forces Reserve Center, to equip themselves for this fight.
ASIST is a two day program created by LivingWorks. According to their website, the program “teaches participants to provide a skilled intervention and develop a collaborative safety plan to keep someone safe and alive”. ASIST teaches attendees how to identify the warning signs that someone is going to commit suicide, how to properly communicate with an at risk person when making an intervention, and how to make, and follow through with, a safety plan to get an at risk individual help. Additionally, the program also teaches attendees what professional resources are at their disposal and aims to break the larger stigma related to mental health problems and suicide.
The class, led by Connecticut National Guard Risk Reduction Coordinator Jennifer Visone and Massachusetts National Guard Risk Reduction Coordinator Teresa Stratoberdha, first began with discussions on suicide and later had attendees attempting to make an intervention with the instructors role playing as at risk individuals. These role play sessions aim to prepare members of the Connecticut National Guard to effectively communicate with those struggling with suicidal ideations and talk those afflicted off the ledge.
“[The class is] learning the basic model, the PAL model, pathway for assisting life, and how to go through and check," said Visone. They’re staying in sync with the person at risk and making sure they are asking the right questions, and hearing their story.”
While both the Connecticut Army National Guard and Connecticut Air National Guard have their own dedicated suicide prevention programs, ASIST is an additional tool in the toolbox, one that has proven to bolster the confidence of it’s attendees when intervening.
According to a study on the Centre for Suicide Prevention’s website, 88% participants of the course that were polled felt more confident to help someone contemplating suicide and 91% of participants felt more prepared. Additionally, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s website, data from monitored phone calls from suicidal individuals to a suicide crisis help hotline showed that callers felt “less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed” by the end of their phone calls when talking to counselors that had ASIST training compared to those who did not.
“ [Ask, Care, Escort, or ACE; a suicide intervention process introduced by the U.S. Army] is definitely just the introduction how to ask about suicide," explained Visone. “Compared to ASIST, where you are actually taking on the caregiver role and going through a safety plan with your person at risk. The ASIST model helps because they [the class] get to do that roleplay, where they take on the role of the caregiver and somebody else takes on the role of the person at risk. They get to go through the entire process. The ASIST model provides more in-depth training on how to ask questions, what to ask, how to reinforce things that the person at risk is telling you. It really focuses on that listening piece and getting to hear their story, to figure out why, what the underlying issues really are as why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling, to maybe help before it gets to a crisis situation.”
If you are contemplating suicide, please reach out by dialing 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Additionally, if you are a service member, you can also reach out to the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, followed by pressing one, or to Connecticut National Guard Behavioral Health Team Careline at 855-800-0120.